A Drew alumnus finds his inner Sir Lancelot on a History Channel series premiering this week.
James Fairclough C’09, a national equestrian champion as a senior, will appear in Full Metal Jousting, a jousting competition cum reality TV series that premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 12) on the History Channel. That’s right, jousting, the medieval contest in which two riders bearing lances speed toward each other atop one-ton horses, each intending to knock the other off his mount. On the show, the jousters wear 100 pounds of armor and carry 11-foot-long, solid fir lances. We caught up with Fairclough via phone from Florida, where he was back to competing on the show-jumping circuit.
I would guess that, as a rider, you’d think a reality TV show about jousting was either the coolest thing in the world or the worst reality TV idea ever.
I was really hesitant about the reality part. It’s definitely a good idea for the horse industry. It’s nothing but great PR and exposure for myself. How often do you get to joust and have somebody pay for it—and the opportunity to hit another person?
What was involved in the tryouts? Were you actually jousting?
It was a pretty strict and tough training regimen—two hours in the morning and afternoon. I ride about 12 hours a day, so it was another day at the office for me. For other guys, that wasn’t the case.
At 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 160 pounds, you are the smallest contestant on the show. How much of a disadvantage is your size when you’re jousting?
I really don’t think it was a disadvantage. I was able to connect and wrap my legs around the horse and focus my energy. If I can connect with the horse, I carry 2,000 pounds behind my hit.
What influenced your decision to attend Drew?
It was right in my backyard. They had a great equestrian program, great academics. I liked the small size and the whole atmosphere of Madison. It gave me the ability to focus on my riding, and it’s only 45 minutes from my house in New Jersey.
As a national champion you’re accustomed to being on a horse. But how hard was it to get used to the cameras?
I never adjusted to it. It gave me another perspective on reality television shows. [Even though] we had a limited amount of time with cameras in the house, [it] was the hardest part of the competition. Jousting was the easy part. The hardest part was living in a house with all the guys and trying to coexist. We’ll just say it was definitely close quarters.
The Full Metal Jousting trailer on the History Channel’s web site has one shot of you with a very bloody face. What happened?
I can’t say anything about what happened. I just can confirm that it was me. It was definitely a hard hit, I will say that.
Is Full Metal Jousting going to make you a household name?
I hope so. I hope the sport takes off. If people like mixed martial arts or football or hockey or any of those contact sports, they’re definitely going to love jousting.